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ABC Seeks Super Ratings from Super Millionaire

Michael Davies, executive producer of Who Wants To Be A Millionaire and now Super Millionaire, is jumping to ABC’s aid during February sweeps.

Davies had been talking with Lloyd Braun, chairman of ABC Entertainment Television Group, for some time about reviving the prime time version of Who Wants To Be A Millionaire, but he wasn’t ready when the call came, he said during a press call on Tuesday.

After the network did some "concept testing," Davies said, ABC executives decided a revised version of the show with a $10 million prize would be well-received by viewers.

"I got a call a couple of weeks ago and they said they wanted the show to be on the air by May and I said ‘no, I can’t be ready,’" Davies said. "Then they called me a couple of days later and told me it was going on at the end of February."

The show will premiere at 9 p.m. on Sunday, Feb. 22, and then will air four more times that week at 10 p.m. While the 10 p.m. time slot isn’t ideal since the show has historically done well with families, Davies said Millionaire has done well in the past at that hour. It’s also the time when ABC has many holes on its schedule, so it’s where Millionaire is most needed.

Besides offering a $10 million jackpot, Super Millionaire will have two new twists on "lifelines," which bring help to stumped contestants. One lifeline, called "Three Wise Men," will allow contestants to consult with "three brilliant individuals," Davies says, on a question. The other, called "Double Dip," will give contestants two shots at a question.

The two additional lifelines, which come into play as contestants move up the money ladder toward $10 million, are meant to keep contestants in the game as the amount of money they are risking grows.

In Super Millionaire, once contestants get past $100,000, the amounts grow quickly, leaping to $500,000 to $1 million to $2.5 million to $5 million to finally, $10 million.

"This is going to be quite a lot of fun and quite expensive for ABC," said host Regis Philbin at the start of the conference call. "$10 million is a terrific jackpot and just what we need to energize the audience to get them back in here."

Contributing editor Paige Albiniak has been covering the business of television for nearly 25 years. She is a longtime contributor to Next TV, Broadcasting + Cable and Multichannel News. She concurrently serves as editorial director for entertainment marketing association Promax. She has written for such publications as TVNewsCheck, The New York Post, Variety, CBS Watch and more. Albiniak was B+C’s Los Angeles bureau chief from September 2002 to 2004, and an associate editor covering Congress and lobbying for the magazine in Washington, D.C., from January 1997-September 2002.